DAZED AND CONFUSED
Okay, so here we are. What exactly is the here that we are? To put it bluntly, the here is the 2022-2023 high school hockey season and we are 3 weeks late, which means that I am right on schedule. In fact, I am a week ahead of last season so if I keep it up, I will be ahead of schedule in another 4 years. Hmm! Doubtful, to say the least. Even I realize that all you hockey pucks out there can certainly survive each and every hockey season without me and/or The Rink Rat Review. However, what would you do without my bodaciously inspiring humorously sarcastic articles of discourse on youth hockey. This is where you folks end up when you are searching for something beyond scores, common sense and loose logic. Some of you old timers out there are reading this with a smile on your face and rolling your eyes around out loud and thinking, ah yes, same old Sullie, starting the year off in the usual manner of not knowing what he's talking about. Well, they would not be on the side of error, especially this year as right now, I don't have a clue. I have yet to shift into hockey mode as I have just barely slipped out of my summer mindset and have just recently switched to wearing long pants. I just watched my 1st football game of the season on Thanksgiving Day and am pleasantly ensconced in the autumnal equinox. I have yet to read any hockey related items on any level, been to a rink, or seen any ice other then the stuff that clinks in my cocktail glass. To top it off, there is no snow on the ground so I am going to wait those proverbial 5 minutes whilst Mother Nature can set the mood, after all, I am still in Minnesota so there is a great chance that there will be snow falling before I am done with this article. I haven't abandoned the hinterland for the tropics yet, but I still have visions of palm trees, white sand, bikinis and Tiki Drinks dancing in my head. Residing on the Southwestern fringe of Metro Mania, I will have to resort to naked trees, white land, long underwear and beer. There just doesn't seem to be any justice in this world, so here I be, 230 miles south of the Iron Range Conference and 2,000 miles short of my destiny. All this would simply be matter of fact, save for the really bad news. What little I have perused, so far, does not look pretty and I am sure that you have already come to that conclusion after reading the banner headline. November is going to go down as the worst start for non-conference games in Rink Rat Review history. The record is 6-16 and there are only 4 games left for the month, which are scheduled for tonight. Right now, the winning percentage is .2727 which leaves acres of room for improvement. This particular stat is something that I have been following for years and is something that I have yet to see published elsewhere. It diminishes more and more as each season passes and we are off to a morbid start so far this year. Bemoaning the plight of the IRC is annual verbiage that crops up every year around this time. Is it any wonder why we old timers live in the past? The glory days are gone so I rely now on keeping my love and dedication to this game alive and well. My personal involvement has dramatically plummeted and I can blame the Pandemic for that. I went from 150+ games in the 2019-2020 season to 3 the following year and last year. I have gone from taking up residency at the Xcel Energy Center Press Box for 4 days every March to streaming on my home computer, thanks to the Minnesota State High School League's wholesale rejection of press passes to us low-life grass roots hockey grunts. Any excursions to the Northland for hockey games have become extinct. The changes since Covid are vast and complex. Eveleth and Virginia have lost their identity as they are no longer the Maroon & Gold Golden Bears and the Blue & White Blue Devils, they are the Green & Black Rock Ridge Wolverines. I was at the Eveleth Hippodrome the evening they unveiled their co-op Jersey. Needless to say, we were stunned and not in a positive way. The thought of losing that magnanimous iron range rivalry still does not set well with me. We rinked 8 boy's teams and 1 girl's team our inaugural season which expanded to 4 more girl's teams for a total of 13 teams: Grand Rapids, Greenway, Hibbing, Chisholm, Eveleth-Gilbert, Virginia MIBC, Mesaba East, International Falls for Boy's and Grand Rapids, Greenway, Hibbing-Chisholm, Virginia-Eveleth and International Falls for Girl's. Since then, Chisholm merged with Hibbing, Mesaba East is defunct, Greenway Girls merged with Grand Rapids and now Eveleth-Gilbert and Virginia are Rock Ridge. It will be like 1967 when folks were trying to find where Greenway was on the map after winning the State Tournament. Whew! Am I done yet? Nope, not even close. To shake things up even more, Grand Rapids and Hibbing-Chisholm Boys and Grand Rapids-Greenway and Hibbing-Chisholm Girls are in the Lake Superior Conference while Greenway, International Falls and Rock Ridge Boys are in the Iron Range Conference and the International Falls and Rock Ridge Girls are Independent. Okay, hold on to your hat cause I'm going to add insult to injury here as there is one more tiny item. In order to not have the IRC Boys hanging with only 3 teams, they evened things up by bringing North Shore (Two Harbors, Silver Bay) into the mix. Wait a minute! Aren't they the enemy? Are you as confused as I am yet? I better leave it at that and not get into the International Falls Girls being listed in Region 8, but governed by Region 7. I would blame geography on that. There are still other changes that I'm not going to get into so we can move to adjourn and be seconded. By the way, there looks to be about 4 inches of snow on the ground. See ya at the rink!